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Headlines for Friday, August 5, 2016

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Panel's Scolding Gives Brownback Preview of Future 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's administration has gotten a preview of what working with a less conservative Legislature could be like. It came Friday in the form of an oversight committee's angry, bipartisan scolding over issues within the state's Medicaid program. The public dressing-down of Department of Health and Environment officials came only three days after the state's primary election. Voters showed their unhappiness with Brownback by ousting at least 11 conservative Republican incumbents in the Legislature. Members of the House-Senate oversight committee were upset about budget-balancing cuts in payments to pharmacies, doctors and hospitals providing services to Medicaid participants. They also were frustrated with a backlog in Medicaid applications and angry that the state is still pursuing some changes opposed by many advocates and legislators.


Candidate Blames Kansas Democratic Party Mailers for Loss 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A retired court services officer blames a mailer paid for by the Kansas Democratic Party for his defeat in the 4th Congressional District Democratic primary. The Wichita Eagle reports that Robert Tillman lost the primary Tuesday to attorney Dan Giroux by 549 votes. Tillman won 14 out of the district's 16 counties, but lost Sedgwick County by 872 votes. The state Democratic Party sent out a mailer on Giroux's behalf the weekend before the primary vote. Tillman said it cost him the election. Kansas Democratic Party executive director Kerry Gooch says the party extended an offer to each of their congressional candidates, "and Dan was one of the only ones who took it up." Gooch says the mailer shouldn't be seen as the party endorsing Giroux over Tillman. Tillman says he wasn't extended an offer.


Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Kansas City Reports Data Breach 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City says about 790,000 of its members are being notified that some of their personal information has been compromised in a data breach. The Kansas City Star reports that the issue occurred at Newkirk Products, which issues health care identification cards. Newkirk discovered the breach July 6. BlueKC spokeswoman Kelly Cannon says the breach didn't include Social Security numbers or medical or financial information but did include names, addresses and some plan information. Newkirk and BlueKC say there's no evidence so far that the data has been used inappropriately. People with a BlueKC card issued between September 2, 2012, and July 7, 2016, will get a letter explaining the data breach and offering them two years of free identity protection services.


Kansas School Board Approves $7.2 Million in Extra Aid to Districts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas State Board of Education has approved a total of $7.2 million in additional state funding to 31 public school districts. But it's not clear how much money the districts actually will receive. Legislators financed the "extraordinary needs'' funding with proceeds from selling the Kansas Bioscience Authority. If the KBA sells for less than expected, less school funding will be available. The sale must generate $38 million for districts to get all their funds, and state officials aren't sure it's possible. Thirty-four districts applied for a total of $8.4 million. All but three received some funds. The largest allocations were nearly $849,000 for the Spring Hill district in Johnson County to help it deal with increased numbers of students, and nearly $687,000 for the Wichita district to help it deal with an increase in refugee students. 


Kansas Facing Steep Turnover of School Superintendents 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — More than 20 percent of Kansas' school districts, including some of the larger districts, will have new superintendents this fall. Dale Dennis, deputy education commissioner of Kansas, said 61 Kansas school districts, including Topeka, Olathe, Lawrence and Manhattan, have new leaders this year. Some veteran superintendents in rural districts are also going elsewhere. The departures follow at least two straight years of record-breaking turnover, which Dennis and others said has taken a toll on districts and the state. The Wichita Eagle reports that the average tenure for a superintendent in Kansas is about five years. The Kansas Association of School Superintendents recently stepped up its efforts to mentor superintendents, pairing veteran or retired leaders with new ones.


Lawmakers Question KanCare Contractor About Big Backlog

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas lawmakers were critical of the service provided by a contractor for the state's Medicaid program during a tour of a program clearinghouse in Topeka. An official with the contractor, Maximus, said the company is determined to improve service, particularly a backlog of applications. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that members of a KanCare oversight committee toured the clearinghouse Thursday, as part of an effort to examine problems with the privatized Medicaid program in Kansas. Committee members said their constituents complain that it takes too long for their applications to be processed, the documents are often lost and Maximus doesn't communicate with them. A Maximus executive told lawmakers the company hired 70 new people this year to help reduce the backlog.


Report: Value of Kansas Farm Land, Buildings Down in 2016 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report shows the value of land and buildings on Kansas farms fell 7 percent last year. The National Agricultural Statistics Service said Friday farm real estate value in 2016 averaged $1,880 per acre. That is down $150 per acre compared to the previous year. Cropland values fell 7 percent to $2,050 per acre. Cropland with irrigation averaged $3,000 an acre, down $270 per acre. Cropland without irrigation averaged $1,940, down $150 an acre. Pastureland was valued at $1,290 per acre, down $100 per acre. The agency said cash rents paid to landlords for cropland was mixed with irrigated land up to $129 an acre, while dryland cropland was down to $56 per acre. Pasture rented for cash was down to an average $19 an acre.


Judge Grants Class Action Status to Wilson County Jail Postcards Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A federal judge has granted class action status to a lawsuit filed against the Wilson County sheriff over his jail's policy of allowing inmates to receive and send only postcards in the mail. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson on Thursday granted the request for class certification. The class would cover at least 40 people, the average daily inmate population at the southeast Kansas jail. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and the Social Justice Law Collective sued Figgins in April alleging the policy violates the free speech and due process rights of prisoners and the people who write to them. Sheriff Pete Figgins has defended the policy saying some people use coded language or plant a letter in sealed envelopes meant for someone whom they're not supposed to contact. 


Grand Jury Petition on Kansas Voter Registrations Valid 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Douglas County election official says enough signatures were gathered to allow a grand jury to criminally investigate Secretary of State Kris Kobach's handling of Kansas's online voter registration system. Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said Thursday that the petition has more than the required number of verified signatures. The next step is a judge's review. The petition seeks an investigation into whether Kobach's office committed election fraud and voter suppression by deleting registration data. The American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing Kobach over voting rights issues, says it's seen no evidence of criminal conduct. Under a rarely used Kansas law, grand juries can be assembled by citizen petitions. But even Kobach's harshest critics say they've seen no evidence he committed a crime.


Apollo 11 Bag Used for Lunar Samples Now Focus of Legal Dispute 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A bag carried to the moon aboard the Apollo 11 spacecraft and used for the first sample of lunar material is at the center of a legal fight after the government mistakenly sold it during the criminal case against the former director of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center. The bag was flown on Apollo 11 in June 1969 and has lunar material embedded in its fabric. The government this week asked a federal judge to rescind its sale. It contends that as result of misidentification the National Aeronautics and Space Administration— which loaned it to the Cosmosphere — was not properly notified. Cosmosphere founder Max Ary was convicted in 2005 for stealing and selling museum artifacts. The bag was found in his garage during execution of a search warrant.


Amtrak Head Heralds Restoration of Passenger Route in Kansas

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) _ The head of Amtrak celebrated the salvation of Newton's passenger rail service and said there's a possibility Wichita could get passenger rail service.  Joe Boardman, Amtrak's president and CEO, was in Newton on Thursday and called the Southwest Chief, which runs through Newton, a "critical link.''  The Southwest Chief carries about 350,000 people a year from Chicago to Los Angeles. The route was threatened in Kansas by crumbling infrastructure including tracks and rails. Boardman said Amtrak has invested about $40 million on rail upgrades. He says Amtrak is also considering the possibility of restoring rail service from Newton through Wichita to link up with Oklahoma and Texas trains.


Suspect in Topeka Hotel Killing Captured in Missouri

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities say a suspect in a killing at a Topeka hotel has been captured in Missouri. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that authorities are working on the extradition of the 26-year-old man. He was captured Wednesday in Platte County, Missouri. Topeka police spokeswoman Amy McCarter said Thursday that the man initially was identified as a person of interest in the death of 18-year-old Sarah Crawford but is now considered a suspect. Crawford was found Saturday in a room at the Ramada West hotel. Police said they believe Crawford died after an argument and that she and the suspect are thought to have been acquaintances


2 Sentenced in 2015 Death of Wichita Woman 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansans have been sentenced to prison in the 2015 death of a 66-year-old Wichita woman killed during a home
invasion. The Wichita Eagle reports Jacob Strouse was sentenced to more than 32 years in prison in connection with the September death of Jacquelyn Harvey. Strouse pleaded guilty in June to second-degree murder, aggravated burglary and other charges. Brittany McDay was sentenced to more than 21 years. She pleaded guilty in April to second-degree murder, aggravated burglary and attempted criminal use of a financial card. Prosecutors say McDay and Strouse went to the neighborhood to collect a debt but kicked in the door to the wrong house and shot Harvey before realizing their mistake. Wednesday's sentences follow plea agreements negotiated by their attorneys and the Sedgwick County prosecutor's office.


Man Fatally Wounded in Topeka Parking Lot

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been fatally shot in a shopping center parking lot in Topeka. Topeka police identified the victim in a news release as 24-year-old Dante Marcus Fields, of Topeka. The release said Fields was shot early Friday and driven in a private vehicle to a hospital, where he died. Police responded to the hospital around 2:20 am and have interviewed several witnesses. No other information was immediately released.


Kansas City Man Sentenced to Life in Prison in Girlfriend's Death

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri man has been sentenced to life in prison for fatally beating his girlfriend in Kansas City. Forty-seven-year-old Morris Smith was sentenced Thursday in Jackson County Circuit Court for second-degree murder in the death of Kimberly Hetzler. Prosecutors said that Morris told police he had an argument with Hetzler at her home. He said he and the victim had had a violent relationship and that he hit her in the face. Police said blood was apparent on pajamas he was wearing. During the interview with police, he said, "I'm going to jail for the rest of my life" and "I know you know I did it."


Kansas City Police Investigate Deadly Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police are investigating a deadly shooting in Kansas City. Police said in a news release that officers found the victim lying in a street with gunshot wounds Tuesday night. The man died at the scene. The release said the man was in his late 20s, but his name wasn't immediately released. Authorities say the suspect was driving a black Pontiac with a temporary tag. Authorities are urging anyone with information to come forward.


Sentencing Set for Topeka Mom Who Poisoned Daughters' Kool-Aid Drinks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman is scheduled to be sentenced next month for attempting to give her daughters Kool-Aid laced with prescription drugs. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the sentencing is set for September 2 for Shakina Dauniel Lawton. She pleaded guilty in February to two counts of attempted murder. Before making the plea agreement, Lawton faced two charges of attempted first-degree murder. Senior assistant district attorney Todd Hiatt said her daughters were 14 and 9 when Lawton brought them into the kitchen, where she gave them the medication-laced Kool-Aid. The older daughter called 911 and told dispatchers her mother was trying to poison her and her sister. Hiatt said that Lawton hadn't been taking her medication for mental health ailments, including bipolar disorder and depression.


Wichita Police to Hold More Neighborhood Gatherings 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are planning more cookouts with the public in August. Police Sergeant Nikki Woodrow says the patrol west and south bureaus plan "Kids, Cops and Cars" cookouts at city parks on August 13. The Wichita Eagle reports similar events are planned later in August at the two other patrol bureaus. Woodrow says the events are a way for the public to meet and interact with police in a relaxed setting. Wichita received national attention for holding a First Steps Community Cookout last month shortly after police officers were shot and killed in Dallas, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Police Chief Gordon Ramsey and Wichita activists agreed to replace a protest with a cookout to promote dialogue. Nearly 2,000 people attended.


Eighth Inning Homer Lifts Rays Past Royals, 3-2

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays' Brad Miller hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Kansas City Royals 3-2 on Thursday. Miller connected on his 19th homer off Joakim Soria (4-5), who gave up three of the Rays' overall four hits during his one inning. Rays' starting pitcher Drew Smyly allowed two runs, five hits, one walk and struck out 10 in seven inningsThe Royals' Ian Kennedy gave up one hit, walked four and had nine strikeouts in six-plus innings for the Royals. Tampa Bay won two games to split the four-game series. The Rays are 8-25 against Kansas City since the start of the 2012 season.

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